IndyCar points roundup: Iowa

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While Helio Castroneves celebrated victory, championship leader Scott Dixon left the Iowa Corn 300 scratching his head. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver barely cracked the top ten all day before finally ending up eighth at the checkered flag.

Dixon explained to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis that he and the No. 9 NTT Data Honda team simply fought handling problems all race long.

“We struggled. So loose. We beat up the right front a lot. Coming past traffic was really tough. It was a fun race. Physically very difficult. Our car was neutral, fighting it all day,” Dixon explained.

Scott Dixon during practice at Iowa Speedway. Photo: IndyCar

As a result of his struggles, the already close championship picture has become even closer. Dixon now leads Castroneves by a slim eight points, meaning a Castroneves victory at next week’s Honda Indy Toronto would make him the championship leader.

Pagenaud sits third, 31 points out of the lead. Their Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden sit third and fourth, making it a Penske 2-3-4-5 in the championship at the moment, with Power 53 points behind and Newgarden 56 markers out of the lead. With Castroneves’ win, all four Penske drivers have now won a race this year.

Behind the Penske quartet, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato sit tied for sixth, 66 points behind the lead as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border for the Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, July 16, 3:00 p.m. ET on CNBC).

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Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.